Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.
What are your thoughts on five-star QB Gunner Kiel opening back up his recruitment after being committed to Indiana; what impact does it have?
Mike Farrell: I don't think it's a huge surprise. It's not just of matter of wins and losses, but also competing with his brother for the starting job there. Seeing Indiana struggle and his brother trying to take the reigns of that team, he felt he would be better someplace else. It will make a huge impact on somebody else, obviously. Oklahoma has been mentioned and Alabama was in the mix. But I think he wants to be closer to home, so Michigan and Notre Dame are the two schools to watch. For a five-star quarterback to open up his recruitment at this stage of the game, it's going to be a huge deal. It is going to be one of the biggest recruiting battles down the stretch that we've seen in quite some time.
Adam Gorney: I'm not surprised at all that Kiel will re-evaluate his commitment which is probably not a good sign for Indiana. Any objective evaluation of that program is not a good one since the team this season has bad losses to Ball State and North Texas and its only win is against South Carolina State. What always puzzled me about Kiel's decision is not why he'd want to play for the Hoosiers but why wouldn't he want to have the best possible offensive line, running backs and wide receivers around him? Kiel could make all the passes but if the line cannot block, if the backs cannot pick up blitzes and the receivers cannot get open then it won't matter. Imagine if Andrew Luck played at San Jose State or Landry Jones wanted to stay in-state at New Mexico or New Mexico State. It doesn't make much sense because top-notch quarterbacks should surround themselves with outstanding players so all their abilities are magnified.
Josh Helmholdt: Now that Kiel is back on the market, every school still needing a quarterback in the 2012 class is going to inquire. There's a chance he'll only make one or two visits and come to a quick decision - he is scheduled to graduate in December - but I actually expect more than just a couple schools will be evaluated in this go-round. My sense in talking with Kiel is that he is in no rush to come to a final decision and is ready to go through the process and make sure he has a solid choice. If that takes place, then his recruitment will be a top news story for weeks to come and have the attention of the college football recruiting world.
Chris Nee: When you are being pursued by some of the nation's best schools, it is tough to ignore them. This isn't surprising. It makes sense for him to check out his options. What will be interesting is to see which schools are willing to sell out for him and make him their only target at the position knowing he has previously chosen the path less traveled.
Keith Niebuhr: It'll be interesting to see if Alabama can get back in the race or if it even wants to get back in the race. I wonder if the Tide moved on. Since Kiel committed to another school, Alabama added a quarterback commit. I wonder if they re-evaluate things now or if they are comfortable with that they have. If Kiel does express interest in Alabama, do they want him at this point?
Brian Perroni:Oklahoma and Alabama, two of his favorites prior to committing to Indiana, have both since offered and accepted commitments from other quarterbacks. I am sure both would still gladly take Kiel but that could mean that Trevor Knight or Alec Morris could end up looking around again. If that happened it could start the dominos falling at a number of other schools as well.
What college head coach do you feel high school prospects are most awed by meeting in person?
Mike Farrell:Nick Saban. Not only has he won a national title with two different teams but he also has NFL experience and his teams are always in the hunt for it all. Throw in his intimidating personality and reputation and I think prospects are sometimes just in awe.
Adam Gorney: I still think it's Joe Paterno just because of his longevity and timelessness. He's almost a storybook figure in the sense that he doesn't go on the road to recruit so actually sitting in the same room with him and being able to hold a conversation with someone of his history and success has to be something special. To think Paterno coached some of these kids' fathers is something neat to just think about. There is a special tradition passed down through Penn State football and for a father and son to be coached by the same man is pretty neat. From recruits I talk to across the country I really do find that meeting Paterno in his office - and seeing he still can deliver a joke - is something that puts kids in awe.
Josh Helmholdt: Certainly the coaches with long tenures and a lengthy list of accomplishments generate an awe factor from recruits - guys like Joe Paterno and Steve Spurrier. At this time, though, the coach who seems to generate the most awe from kids is Alabama's Nick Saban. I have never met Saban in person, but he must have some type of aura about him because recruits seem starstruck every time they get off the phone, or back from a visit, with Saban.
Chris Nee: Saban still seems to be the guy that draws the most oohs and aahs from prospects upon their first meeting with him. Whether it is his NFL ties, from his days as an assistant with the Oilers and Browns or as head coach for the Dolphins, or his success in the college ranks as a head coach at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama, he seems to instantly earn respect and admiration from prospective student-athletes. Saban is also good at talking to prospects and their families, and appealing to them on and off the field.
Keith Niebuhr: For me, this is an easy one to answer. Time and again, prospects tell me about how in awe they are of meeting Saban. Truthfully, I hear this five times more often (at least) than I do with other coaches.
Brian Perroni: I'm sure a legend such as Joe Paterno would be a big deal to most people but Penn State hasn't been a powerhouse since today's high school students have been watching football. I would say both Mack Brown at Texas and Nick Saban at Alabama both sort of have a mystique around them that impresses prospects.
What's been the best one-on-one individual matchup you've seen this fall so far in high school games you've covered?
Mike Farrell: For me it was Maryland studs Stefon Diggs and Cyrus Jones head-to-head on both sides of the ball. They didn't line up against each other every play but often enough to see a great matchup. I think both did a stellar job against the other defensively and it was nice to see the clear mutual respect they had for the other.
Adam Gorney: I've seen a lot of great players but the best one-on-one matchup probably has been Boise State defensive back commit Chaz Anderson against California wide receiver commit Bryce Treggs. It was certainly the most competitive. Treggs, from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, out-jumped Anderson on a deep pass for a touchdown and that was definitely the highlight of the night but Anderson, out of Los Angeles Loyola, had the better overall game especially on the offensive side. Both players were impressive which made the matchup that much more intriguing.
Josh Helmholdt: Few times when you see top prospects play in the same game do they actually line up across from one another and impact the play of the other, but it has happened a few times in games I saw this year. Probably the best matchup in which both players stepped up and made plays was early in the season when four-star wide receiver Aaron Burbridge met four-star cornerback Terry Richardson. Burbridge took the upper hand early and looked as if he would dominate the matchup, making a couple early grabs including one on a corner route where he got behind Richardson. The Cass Tech defensive back answered, however, finding his stride as the game progressed and made a couple nice breakups later in the game, including one which would have been a touchdown for Burbridge. With Burbridge headed to Michigan State and Richardson heading to Michigan, these two should meet again on Saturday afternoons in the future.
Chris Nee: Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington sophomore quarterback Treon Harris against Miami Northwestern junior linebacker Matthew Thomas. Two high-level playmakers squaring off against one another. Thomas regularly harassed Harris and his teammates by coming off the edge. He faced a tough challenge trying to track down Harris, who is quick at evading pressure. Both made a solid impression with their play.
Keith Niebuhr: It was really fun watching Dalvin Tomlinson, a Rivals250 prospect from Henry County (Ga.), go head-to-head with D-I prospects on both sides of the ball in the same game. As a defensive end, he tangled with Sandy Creek (Ga.) offensive tackle Will Adams, a talented Georgia Tech commit. At offensive tackle, he went up against Florida defensive end commit Quinteze Williams. I think Adams got the best of Tomlinson, but I also think Tomlinson did quite well against Williams.
Brian Perroni:LSU four-star offensive line commit Derek Edinburgh against North Carolina defensive end commit Jessie Rogers was a good battle all game in the second week of the year when New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr met Arlington (Texas) Bowie in Cowboys Stadium. Edinburgh is a mammoth lineman but does not get a chance to go against top defensive linemen very often. Rogers definitely held his own.
Is there a new-on-the-scene college player having a huge year so far that surprises you, based on what you saw of them in high school?
Mike Farrell: For me it's Tyrann Mathieu. I saw him at a couple camps and he was especially impressive at the Tennessee summer camp between his junior and senior year but I didn't see the impact player he has become. Heck, Tennessee didn't even offer him after the camp. LSU was his only big offer but the Tigers certainly look smart now.
Adam Gorney: I wouldn't say the success Marqise Lee is having at USC necessarily surprises me but he definitely came on faster than anyone thought I'm sure. There was some consideration late in the year to bump Lee to a five-star prospect and I strongly felt he was just as talented as George Farmer at Gardena (Calif.) Serra last season. The problem with Lee is that he didn't have years of success in high school - Farmer and Robert Woods were the big names - and really emerged in his senior season. Serra coach Scott Altenberg was just telling me that they had to convince him to stay with football instead of playing basketball in college. Lee was a tremendous game-changer in high school but even I'm a little surprised that he's this good, so early, at USC.
Josh Helmholdt: Since we are on the road most weekends it is tough to stay up on the national college football scene, but one player who has surprised me with his impact this season is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. I saw Smith, who was then better known as Eugene and not Geno, at a 7-on-7 and then on film and felt he may be a serviceable quarterback at the college level, but did not expect him to be a breakout talent. Yet, six games into his junior season he has led the Mountaineers to a 5-1 record, with their only loss coming to No. 1 LSU. Smith is completing 64 percent of his passes for more than 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Chris Nee: I only got to watch Ameer Abdullah for a week at Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic but left that event thinking very highly of the talented athlete. I thought he would turn out to be an asset to whichever college program he opted for and contribute multiple years in his career. He has surprised me though with his impact as a true freshman at Nebraska where he has been a major special teams asset. With 20 kick returns on the season, he is averaging 31.9 yards per return.
Keith Niebuhr: Yes, Sammy Watkins. Look, everyone knew the guy had a ton of talent. But his play has been out of this world. A Clemson fan recently ripped me for having Watkins rated too low in high school. Well, he was a five-star. And he was the No. 15 overall prospect. Someone will have to explain to me how that is a slight. It's not like we thought the kid was a stiff. But really, who could have predicted this type of immediate success - other than fans of Clemson (fans always think their recruits are better than the rest)? This kid is killing it, and it has been an absolute pleasure to watch. Hopefully for Watkins, this is only the start.
Brian Perroni: I have to say I am very surprised by the play of West Virginia true freshman running back Dustin Garrison. He was a very good high school player for Pearland (Texas) but he is small and I didn't see him as an FBS kid. Neither did 119 colleges before the Mountaineers offered very late in the recruiting process. It has been impressive to see what he has already done in half a season in college.